“We are one fiscal reform package away from being able to focus on the greatness of this nation.”

Bob Corker Discusses the Fiscal Crisis Facing America and the Obstacles to Reform

WASHINGTON DC – In a speech this past Thursday morning to a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (TN) discussed the fiscal crisis facing America and shared his thoughts on the political and policy obstacles that are standing in the way of reform.

“When I first came here,” Corker stated, recalling his election to the Senate in 2006, “even though the country was tremendously polarized, we still did a lot of tough things. It’s really been in the last year and a half or two years where things have come to a total halt. I know that a group like this that is committed to good public policy is very frustrated by that. I’m very frustrated by that.

“For what it’s worth, while Republicans in the Senate I think are highly frustrated, I think Democrats are even more frustrated because they’re in the majority and they have the ability to set the agenda. I feel something brewing that I think is very healthy. After this next election, we’re going to come back in here. I’m very hopeful it will be the beginning of a time when we will address our nation’s issues.

“To that point, I want to speak briefly about the fiscal situation. I know there’s a lot of talk about the fiscal cliff. I think everybody has their own definition about the fiscal cliff. To me, the fiscal cliff is a minor issue. The bigger issue to me is a fiscal reform package. If we can actually put into place a fiscal reform package, the fiscal cliff goes away. In fact, I am of the belief that we are one fiscal reform package away from being able to focus on the greatness of this nation. If we can do that — whether it’s in the lame duck session or after January 1st — I believe the capital flows into this country are going to be enormous, and we’re going to see a period of 20 years of tremendous economic growth in this country.”

“I think there’s a lot more commonality around that issue than people see. I also think that we have the opportunity, with the right package, to solve that problem. The issue that has kept us apart has not been revenue. There’s actually a lot of commonality in the Senate around reducing marginal rates, eliminating deductions, and causing more revenues to be generated. It’s really the issue of Medicare. If Republicans and Democrats can ever agree on how we’re going to deal with the long-term issues of Medicare, I believe all of the other pieces will fall in place. In all of the negotiations I’ve been involved with, the issue that separates Republicans and Democrats is Medicare.

“Over the last 10 months in our office, I’ve watched the debates. I’ve been involved with every possible kind of discussion you can imagine. What I’ve seen is that we’ve been debating platitudes in Washington. In other words, there hasn’t been any real policy in debating platitudes laid out by Bowles-Simpson. By the way, I think that was a tremendous thing for our country, because it educated people about the $1.2 trillion that we give away in the tax code each year. The problem is, that we’ve been debating ‘process bills’ — what I call ‘platitudes’ — and not had a real policy discussion for people to focus on.”

To that end, Corker noted that his office has spent the past 10 months drafting a comprehensive reform plan for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and the Highway Trust Fund – a plan, he said, that is aimed at restoring these programs to fiscal solvency.

“What we’re hoping,” the Tennessee lawmaker stated, “is that after the election, we’re going to be able to sit down and use at least pieces of that [plan] to really move this debate along. We’ve met with people on both sides of the aisle extensively. We tried to write it in a way that will bring both Republican and Democratic support. We’ve had our antenna up for nearly two years now, listening to all the touch points, and I think we’ve done – for what it’s worth – a reasonable job. I also think the piece we’ve worked on the most and done the best job on is Medicare. What I am hoping will happen is, again, Republicans and Democrats can focus on this issue, agree on the long-term reforms that need to take place, and everything else will more easily fall into place.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.